What I Learned from the World’s Top Stunt Pilot

Mamei Sun
4 min readJul 14, 2023
Sean Tucker and Jesse Panzer flying with the Navy Blue Angels in 2019

“It takes a lot of work to not be boring.” — Sean D. Tucker

I was upside down in aerobatic flight in the red Team Oracle plane, trying to hold my own in conversation as the world spun around me. Sean D. Tucker, stunt pilot extraordinaire and more than 30 years my senior, was asking when I’d last gone skiing while he took us for loops. I responded that “I try to go every year, but last year things got busy….” As my voice trailed off he stated matter of factly: “It takes a lot of work to not be boring.”

As we accelerated past 4 Gs, and the blood rushed out of my head, I thought about what he said. Sean was the world’s premier stunt pilot, was certainly not boring, and had worked hard at both for years. Maybe I should listen to him.

I was taking flying lessons when I first met Sean at an Oracle event, and he suggested I go fly with him. I generally rent a Cessna 172 (which I fondly call the Kia of airplanes), but Sean took me under his wing and has taken me flying in the Team Oracle Extra EA-300, his small Piper Cub, the T-6 Texan, and others. He still randomly checks in to ask: “Have you flown recently?”

One of these flying days became a weekend with his family. And it was here where my eyes were truly opened. I discovered that his energetic, focused, optimistic, and contagious attitude is ever-present and not just an act. At the beginning of each flying season, he would fly 6–7 times a day, steadily increasing G-forces to acclimate his body to the +9/-8 Gs needed for each show (most people pass out around 5 Gs). After a full day of flying, he’d hit the gym and do interval training to hone his cardio. I joined him for half his flights that day, and tried to keep up with his workout, but almost vomited in the process. He balanced his training with nutritious, protein-heavy meals, laughter with loved ones, and the occasional glass of wine. But he would be right back at it at 6am the next morning.

I realized that when Sean says “It takes a lot of work to not be boring” he really means “You have to work hard to develop your passions.” For Sean, flying isn’t just something he does, it’s a passion supported by everything he does. It’s not just the physical aspects of how your hands control the yoke, how your feet push against the rudders, or how you handle the rush of blood so you don’t black out, it’s the discipline to stay on top of your game and the mental focus to narrate in flight, manage a world-class team, and to handle the unexpected.

It was this passion that led Sean from crop-dusting to a lifetime of stunt-flying, now honored with his prized plane hanging upside down at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Source: Smithsonian website

At the end of our flying session, he’d take off the GoPro and hand it to me. “I think it took the video, but I’m not sure. I’m not a tech guy.” I chuckle. Even the least boring man in the world has things he doesn’t work hard at, and that’s ok. He’s human too. :)

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In April 2023, I left Oracle after almost 11 years, serving a number of roles including Chief of Staff to Larry Ellison, VP Global Marketing and Brand, VP Product Strategy and Marketing Oracle Health, and Head of Oracle for Startups and Oracle for Research. This post is week 3 of me sharing 11 things I learned over these 11 years here and on LinkedIn, and I hope you’ll join me for this journey.

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Mamei Sun

Trying to understand the world better. Foodie, traveler, techie, baker, pilot, friend, lifelong student. (P.S. it’s pronounced “MAY-me”)